The Iron Writer Challenge #141
2016 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Vladimir Nabokov Bracket
A ball of yarn
An appointment to be abducted by aliens that you are anxiously waiting for.
A. Francis Raymond
Martha looked up over her the rim of her glasses and sighed. She was number 48.
The disturbance caused her to lose the rhythm of her needles and when she looked back down, the ball of purple yarn she’d been pulling from fell off her lap and rolled to the other side of the waiting room.
The ball stopped at the feet of an older gentleman who Martha noticed had been sitting here since before she came in.
“Please show up at least 15 minutes before appointment time,” the note had said.
The man picked it up and brought it over and took the empty seat next to her.
“Thank you,” she said and continued her knitting.
“Name is Harvey.”
“Martha.” This time, she didn’t lose her rhythm.
“They like to keep us waiting, don’t they?”
“Well, anyone who arrogates themselves any medical facility, let alone the most important one, is going to do that.” Martha figured she’d use her college learning on him. He could either keep up, or head back to his side of the room.
He simply chuckled. “Why are you here?”
Martha stopped her knitting and really looked at Harvey. At first, she assumed he was old enough to be her father until she regarded her own wrinkled hands and remembered that she, too, was really gosh darn old.
And they both knew damn well why they were there. They’d won the appointment lottery to see the Overlords who would be able to do something about their impending death. Anyone over the age of 80 was allowed to apply. Rumor had it that less than one percent of one percent of those who did made it this far.
No one could confirm what happened next. Everyone believed that the Overlords stole them away to their own planet. Abduction in exchange for a new life. Most anyone 80 thought it was worth the chance.
“It wasn’t my plan,” Martha said. “My late husband left me a letter.” She didn’t want to elaborate any further.
Harvey smiled reassuringly. “I guess he passed before 80?”
Martha was a little uncomfortable. She loved her husband, but didn’t enjoy talking about his death. She couldn’t forgive the suicide.
“Yes,” she said, not wanting to seem rude. “He was a writer. But he could never get the voices out of his head. The Isolator is what finally did him in. He didn’t hook it up right and it killed him.” She left out the part with the note and that it was quite intentional.
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“What about you?” Martha figured she’d try to turn the attention off her.
“Me? Well, I want to do it all over again. You see…”
“48! Number 48!”
“Oh… well, I guess it’s my turn.” Martha gathered up her knitting utensils, stuffed in into a bag and turned to Harvey holding out her hand. “It was very nice to meet you.”
Harvey smiled again. “See you on the other side!”
Dorothy clenched her fist, tapped lightly on the door, and pushed it open. The skylight shed dusty rays into the attic study.
‘Another visitor, Hugo’, she ushered the scrawny man into the dank room.
In the dim light, he could make out two figures at the desk, one with an unwieldy, felt helmet masking his features; the other, his host, walked over to greet him, carefully picking his way across the room – piled high with electrical contraptions.
‘Nikola, so nice to see you.’ Their hands touched, their minds met.
‘Some tea please, Dorothy.’
‘No, four, we are four today.’
The door closed behind her; Hugo sat down.
‘Who else is coming?’ asked Nikola Tesla.
‘You’ll see him soon enough.’
‘And who, or what, is that?’
‘It’s your old friend – Edison. He can’t hear you; he’s wearing my “isolator”. Needed to relax, poor fellow.’
‘Well, I hope you’ve got the patent for the “isolator”. He’ll arrogate it to himself – he did with most of my stuff.’
Hugo switched off the oxygen, and removed the helmet. Edison blinked, facing his old adversary.
The rattle of porcelain broke their stares as Dorothy placed the tea tray between them. She turned towards the door, reaching for some switches, ‘Do you need some more light, Hugo?’
‘Not that one’, cried Hugo. She flicked the switch, a metal teaspoon flew across the room, followed by a pen, a pair of glasses, and finally, the metal tip of an umbrella turned and was sucked under the desk – sticking to the electro-magnet, its black material following like a wet bat. Tesla nodded in reverence to the induction coil. She switched it off, and tried the other switch; an orange glow filled the room as the incandescent bulb heated.
‘Before you say it, Thomas: No, you didn’t’, Tesla quipped.
‘The patent says I did’, Edison smiled.
‘You changed the lightbulb, Thomas, but didn’t invent it’, Tesla smiled wider.
Hugo picked up the spectacles.
Herbert Wells emerged from his invisibility cape.
‘I thought “the invisible man” was a story’, Tesla muttered.
‘They start as stories,’ said Herbert, replacing his glasses, ‘I thought that’s why we came here – to create stories for WRNY.’
‘I brought you here’, interrupted Edison, ‘I have a problem. I have an appointment to be abducted by aliens today.’ He held out a small card, ‘I need help.’
‘No kidding’, grinned Tesla, looking at the appointment card, ‘3.30pm, we’ve only got five minutes.’
‘My time-machine isn’t ready yet’, added Herbert, somewhat ironically.
‘I think I have a solution’, Tesla proclaimed, raising a hand.
‘If you don’t mind, Hugo’, he tugged the rug from under Hugo’s feet, ‘and that ball of yarn, please.’
Hugo handed it over.
‘Lie down, Edison’, barked Herbert.
They rolled him on the floor and bound him tightly with the yarn.
They lifted him over their shoulders; he cried out: ‘What about the aliens?’
Nikola Tesla patted his chest: ‘Europe.’
HG Wells tipped his hat: ‘England.’
Hugo Gernsback put on his ‘isolator’: ‘Luxemburg.’
The three aliens walked out into the streets of New York, silently composing a new story for the launch of WRNY.
On the Lam
The proximity alarm inside my IsolatorTM helmet beeped.
“Crap. There’s a ship in this solar system,” I muttered. I twisted the display dial disguised as part of an oxygen tank. Gernsback, he did good work. He kitted out an IsolatorTM to hide my advanced tech from the locals before he left. He never mentioned my little monitoring system to anyone, or if he did they thought it was something out of that sci-fi magazine of his. Either way I was golden.
I fiddled with the dial to adjust the picture. Might be nothing, some yacht flying by, or it might be the “fuzz.” Earth idiom – so cute. But it wouldn’t seem cute if I got caught hiding out on a primitive world. There were laws against that sort of thing. The display snapped into clarity.
Damn, the fuzz. A whole fleet of ships, enough to mount a freaking invasion, hiding behind Jupiter. They sent an entire fleet after me because I copied a few classified files? OK, it was a brilliant hack. Must have been something more important in them than I thought.
So I had to get off this planet.
I lifted the bulbous IsolatorTM hood off and tucked it under my arm. Gernsback should be close enough to come get me before the fuzz got here. Coords, coords, how do I…
“Finished working?” Lorna sat knitting by the window with my poodle Fluffy laying across her feet.
“Just taking a break.”
“I’d need a break from that thing, too. Want some tea?”
Lorna put her knitting in a basket and got up. I tapped my fingers on the IsolatorTM’s hood. How to calculate the vector to send Gernsback a message? My eyes rested on Lorna’s knitting basket. I blinked, then grabbed the IsolatorTM and a ball of yarn and headed outdoors.
In the yard I put the IsolatorTM back on and called up an image of the night sky. I superimposed it over my goggle openings and knotted the yarn to match each star. A few calculations, then I lay down over my star map to angle the IsolatorTM. I flipped on my recorder by tapping the oxygen (not really) tank.
“Gernsback. I need a ride. There’s a fleet here to arrest me.” I tapped to send it and hoped he was awake.
The IsolatorTM beeped. “You arrogate your own worth. They did not send a fleet just to arrest you.
“No, look.” I attached the visual and sent it.
When his image appeared again, he looked scared. “I’ll be there right away. That’s not the fuzz, that’s a Corbian invasion fleet.”
Slavers, massing less than a solar system away. There wouldn’t be anyone left on Earth by the time they got through with it. I stood up, keeping the IsolatorTM on in case Gernsback messaged me again. I could barely see through the goggles, but I had to get Fluffy before he got here. I hoped Gernsback’d be willing to bring my dog.
The Force Awakens
Danielle Lee Zwissler
“Georgie, you need to pick up your toys! They’re all over the place!” George’s mom yelled.
“They’re not toys, Mom! They’re models.”
“For what? I swear, Georgie, you’re 34 years old!”
“It’s for a film, Ma.”
Two Hours Later
“Oh my word, what are you wearing?” George’s mother asked him as she walked into his room. She was carrying a big ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles. George was sitting at his desk, fingers poised over the typewriter keys. He was wearing some odd looking contraption over his face which had some sort of corrugated pipe to God knows where.
George didn’t say anything.
“Georgie!” his mom yelled once again.
She knocked on the side of his helmet.
George turned, took the helmet off, and there was a slow expunged sound of air. “What in the world was that?” his mom asked.
“Oh, it’s called the isolator. It helps writers, Ma; it’s soundproof.”
“The things they come up with these days. Are you hungry?”
George shook his head. He had a huge smile on his face. “Na, can’t stop now. I have a meeting with an alien, I’m about to be abducted.”
“Come again?” His mom looked worried as usual.
“My story. It’s so good, Ma. I think this one’ll be a hit.”
“I’m sure it will, honey.”
“Well,” George said as he picked up his helmet, “have fun with your knitting.”
“And good luck with the abduction, Georgie.”
“May the force be with you,” his mom said, and she went to the door.
George’s eyes widened, he put his helmet back on, and his fingers flew away at the keys. “Ma, you’re a genius!”
In a Galaxy, far far away, there was a man. He was something arrogate, and he had an appointment with a crew of a new ship, an alien that his crewmate, Han Solo, called a wookie.
Hmm, what’s a wookie? George typed. “A wookie is a big hairy creature—tall, carries a blaster, and this particular one’s name is Chewbacca.”
George scribbled down a few notes, then got back to his outline. He looked up to the ceiling and grinned. “May the force be with you! That’s gold!”
George took a deep breath, really into his story now, and could hear the sound of his breathing. Kkkk shhhh kkkk shhhh. His eyes widened once more. George typed: Darth Vadar- Dark Lord, Sith, darkside, evil, wears a helmet like the isolator, has a funny breathing sound to it, menacing…. Luke Skywalker’s dad! “Holy crap, people will eat that up!”
George smiled at his words, and then looked to the right of his desk where his drawings and models were. He’d made a few of ships—one that wasn’t a particularly difficult design. It was a basic model in the shape of an x. “Think like an 11-year-old girl,” George said to himself with a grin. “I think I’ve accomplished that.” George looked down at his drawing of the girl with the buns in her hair and smiled. Perfect. Every little girl likes a princess.
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